“I told you to run.” Cronos said between gritted teeth, blocking an overhand swing from one of the monsters with crossed blades that cut its arm to the bone. “Now I have to get us BOTH out of here.”
“I’m not leaving you behind.” She snarled as a set of razor sharp claws slashed through her upper arm before she could dodge it.
“Sometimes you need to learn to take orders from others.” He said, a strange tone in his voice. “Sorry you had to learn it this way.”
An explosion erupted from beneath her feet, catapulting her through the air and onto flat third story roof of a building. Looking down, she saw that her brother had been transfixed by four of the creature’s clawed hands. The bloodied tips had punched all the way through his body, sixteen points of stained ivory spelling out a death sentence.
Something broke inside her and Callindra slumped to her knees, crying like she hadn’t since she was a child. With a crash, Vilhylm, Kain and Holt broke through another alley with the small contingent of guards at their back. They were too late. It was all her fault.
Her brother was dead.
After the ill-fated battle where she had been lured into the ambush where Cronos had died saving her life, the city had burned. All the Taken inside had died in the ensuing inferno, as had any surviving humans. Vilhylm had managed to get her and their brother’s corpse out before the fire destroyed everything. Callindra was grateful that they would have something to bury.
She and Vilhylm stood before the grave they had made for their brother. Between them they had formed something out of stone that would seal forever. They both knew that Cronos wouldn’t want to take any chances of coming back as a Taken.
The people of the town they’d saved had softened, seeing what they had sacrificed to defend complete strangers. Hearing the reports from the soldiers about how many Taken they had slain and about how many more townsfolk would have died had they not fought. Their understanding only made Callindra feel worse.
“It wasn’t worth it.” She told Vilhylm bitterly.
“It was not your choice.” He said, putting a hand on her shoulder. “You may have decided to help those people, but he is the one who chose to save you. We made you our leader for many reasons, one being your sense of duty and honor.”
“I shouldn’t have gone that last time. I should have listened when he told me to wait.” She squeezed her eyes shut, but the tears leaked out anyway. “He should not have died protecting me.”
“Tryst died for us too.” Vilhylm said softly. “A person’s life is theirs to spend.”
Holt came up behind them. “Kain and I have something to add for the memorial, if it is acceptable to you.”
Kain stood behind them, fiddling with his robe nervously. “I thought that since evil is supposed to have more difficulty crossing running water, and that this seems to be near a small underground spring I could purify it. Holt found the spring and I think I can do the rest.”
He stood behind Cronos’s coffin and held his holy symbol in both hands. Speaking in his native Orcish, the words of prayer and reverence seemed strange, but as he prayed they could feel the presence of the Divine. Kain put his hand on the stone wall behind the coffin and a brilliant white flame began to burn. The stone cracked and water flowed out over the sealed coffin and down the hillside.
“He shall never be corrupted by the forces of evil.” Kain said, weary satisfaction in his voice.
“Thank you two.” Callindra said, wiping tears from her cheeks. “This means the world to us.”
The water of the small stream flowed down and into the river below, its purity obvious as the waters mingled. Something began to throb, sounding for all the world like the slow beating of a heart. It should have sounded ominous, but as the pure, clean water began to filter into the muddy river, Kain assured them this was something good.
“The earth is attempting to cleanse itself.” He said with a smile, “I know it isn’t much, but everything starts off small.”